Nineteen days after taking office, Mauro Falconí, Ecuador’s fourth health minister during the coronavirus pandemic, resigned. The now former portfolio holder was fired due to protests over the disorganization of the country’s vaccination campaign. Earlier this week, for example, the elderly had to queue for hours to be vaccinated.
The crisis in Lenín Moreno’s office comes at a time of worsening Covid-19 in Ecuador and three days before the second round of the presidential election, disputed between center-right banker Guillermo Lasso and leftist Andrés Arauz, sponsored by former leader Rafael Correa (2007-2017).
“Our elderly deserve the greatest respect. I have called for the resignation of the Minister of Health, who will be replaced by Camilo Salinas”, announced Moreno, via his social networks.
Falconí was already under pressure due to the lack of organization in the database for the vaccination campaign. His predecessor, Rodolfo Farfán, fell after a scandal in which doses of the coronavirus vaccine were administered to politicians linked to regional governments.
So far, the country, which at the start of the pandemic was one of the hardest hit by the health crisis in Latin America, has administered 2 doses of vaccines to 100 people, according to data compiled by the New York Times. Brazil, where the vaccination campaign is considered slow, administered 12 doses / 100 people.
Regarding the percentage of the population vaccinated, only 1.3% received a dose in Ecuador. This rate drops to 0.6% when considering the application of the two doses. Vaccination in the country began in January, with a batch of just over 200,000 doses of Pfizer. Last week, Ecuador received 300,000 of the 1 million doses ordered from the Chinese laboratory Sinovac.
In addition to being fired, Falconí is in isolation, having been infected within a week of taking office.
The increase in cases in recent weeks has led the Ecuadorian government to declare a state of emergency, with a curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. in eight provinces, including the most populous, where the country’s main cities , such as Quito and Guayaquil, are located. There is also a rotation of cars during the week and the closure of some stores and parks.
According to the authorities, the presence in Ecuador of the variants of the coronavirus in Manaus and of the British virus has been detected. Some hospitals in the Ecuadorian capital, such as Quito Sur, one of the largest in the country, have already reported overcrowding of ICU beds. “We have an occupancy rate of 145%,” said Francisco Mora, coordinator of epidemiological surveillance at the health center.
For him, the country “is at a very critical point”. “We are entering a peak, and our health system is already showing several signs of saturation.” He says there are patients waiting for care in hallways and in makeshift beds in rooms previously dedicated to exams or other procedures.
For now, instead of Guayaquil, Quito appears to be the epicenter of the new peak of cases in the country. Due to the worsening health situation, the closing events of the election campaign, which would be held in person on Thursday and Friday, are taking place virtually.